ERNIE Els didn’t get off to a great start in his first round as a rookie on the PGA Tour Champions, shooting a level par 72.
But then the Big Easy, who turned 50 in October last year, got his game truly plugged in in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii. The sparks began to fly and he lit up the tournament with a pair of sparkling seven-under-par 65s in rounds two and three. That saw him tie Miguel Angel Jiménez and Fred Couples at the top of the leaderboard on 14-under-par 202, only for Spain’s Jiménez to snatch victory with a birdie three at the second extra hole.
Retief Goosen, who debuted on the over-50s tour last year and promptly won a ‘Slam’, the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship, tied for fourth on Sunday on 12-under after a closing 64. So the signs are good for the two South African legends on the 2020 golden oldies tour.
“It was an exciting week for me and I kind of felt like a rookie again,” Els wrote on his website. “Obviously I grew up with these guys. We’ve spent a lot of time together over the last 25-plus years and it was fun to reconnect. It’s a privilege to be out here, really.
You’re playing on the regular tour for so long and then, of course, they called this the Champions Tour for a reason. If you were a regular tour champion, they reward you on this side. Hopefully I can keep putting some good numbers up.
“The first round felt like I left every putt short, but I changed my putter for round two and then everything clicked into place and I played some really good golf. Obviously it was a bit disappointing not to get the win in the play-off. But I can reflect on a great week, I really enjoyed my debut and congrats to Miguel.
“At this stage we’re not sure how many tournaments I’ll play this year on the Champions Tour. We’re just looking at the schedules at the moment. The truth is, even though I’ve enjoyed almost 30 years on the PGA TOUR and European Tour, it feels a little too soon to call time completely on that part of my career. So my intention is to play across the main tours and the Champions Tour.”
Next up for Els is the European Tour’s Saudi International next week, which will be his second appearance in this impressive new event. ”I want to continue competing against the best players in the world,” he says, “and the way that this tournament is shaping up, it will be one of the strongest fields in golf in the early part of 2020.”
Written by Randpark Member Grant Winter.